A Bit Of Elliebelly Knitting History


Princess banner


Here's a bit of vintage Elliebelly ephemera!  This banner is from my long ago life, when Elliebelly yarn was sold on Hyena Cart as part of a "Congo" called Midday Faire with a few other work at home moms.  The banner surely looks dated, but I couldn't stop from laughing when I found it in some old computer files.  We had a great time together at Hyena Cart. This was all long before Ravelry and at the very, very earliest start of knitters finding each other online.

Elliebelly Collage

In this pre-Ravelry era, I had an online group of Mom-Friends who used brightly variegated colorways to knit diaper covers for babies.  The earliest notes I can find from selling hand dyes on line is in 2001. The hand knit colors made cloth diapering seem like an easy and obvious choice, and were lots of fun.  I always liked to sneak in some muted and semi-solid colorways, and these, along with solids, became useful as trim.  And in seemingly no time, but probably more like a couple of years, everyone was knitting baby sweaters and then scarves and shrugs for themselves until we evolved into full blown knitters.

image from farm4.static.flickr.com(c) camdensmom

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

Even though I've evolved as both a knitter and a dyer in the many years since then, and have not knit more than the occasional diaper cover for a friend in the last few years, I really honor my beginnings as a dyer.  Although my Grandmother taught us to dye and batik fabric as kids, this was really the first time I had worked with yarn as an adult.  In addition to the scientific approach my Grandmother took, I added in some intuitive techniques from my collage art hobby, layering and glazing color onto skeins of yarn as I would on a canvas. Trial and error was always the way I worked, taking copious notes and learning to view failures as opportunities — to this day, one of my favorite techniques is the result of what I viewed as a disaster in the moment.

My family speculates that I have Tetrachromacy and see more conditions than most people.  In reality, I just love color.  I love it's mix and play and the way it varies when dyed on different fibers.  And it turns out that is the perfect passion for a lifelong knitter, because it lets me bring my love of color, fiber, and finished knit projects together.

Elliebelly is coming back in January of 2017 with a new look, a new logo, and base yarns and colorways that have the benefit of several years of intensive dyeing and test knitting while I've been away from the business of selling yarn.  I'm looking forward to it and hope you'll sign up for the newsletter in the box at the top of the page, so I can be in touch when we reopen.


Knitting Quick Christmas Gifts

Over the past few weeks, Amy Miller, one of my favorite knitting pattern designers, has released four patterns for low socks.  They're adorable, and they're quick.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

© amymiller

I love all of them, and intend to knit them, but was particularly take with the pattern for It's a Gansey.  Ganseys are hand knit woolen sweaters, worn by fisherman in Britain.  They were knit on tiny needles for warmth and to be waterproof, with shifting patterns that identified their village and family, so their bodies could be returned home for burial in the event of an accident at sea.  These cute little socks change in patterning across the foot, mimicking the traditional approach to knitting a Gansey.  I'm going to follow Ravelry knitter MStephanie2's very clever idea, and knit each patterned band in a different color.


© elliebelly

From left to right, that's Muslin, Lost Coast, Dear Theodosia, and Lady Mary, all on Elliebelly BFL Constant.

All four of Amy's little sock patterns, found together here, are just right for some quick gift knitting.  I'm envisioning Jimmies in a variegated Paintbrush Yarns and perhaps a quick pair of Netties because the cables (or are they faux cables?) are so sweet. I'm so glad I found these sweet little patterns and can't wait to cast on!



Making A Mess In The Studio

I need a creative day.  One of those messy, carefree, just for fun days.  So, I'm up early, mixing dyes and soaking yarn.


I'm always at my best when I'm playing. And, it seems like a good day for working with a gray I have been wanting to capture on yarn.  Old jeans and a big apron are the attire of the day and I'm listening to the Hamilton Soundtrack.  If you haven't, you really should.  The music is catchy and the lyrics are clever. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself inextricably drawn to rediscovering the history of the revolutionary era, reading biographies and thoroughly enjoying yourself.  But I digress, back to knitting.


In addition to Elliebelly BFL Constant, which is the undyed yarn soaking above, I'm planning on dyeing some Rainey DK.  Rainey is a yarn I started working with this summer as part of my ongoing search for the perfect linen blend.  Rainey, which is a blend of linen, silk, and alpaca comes in both a fingering and a dk weight, and is a new favorite.  You can read about a test knit project with Rainey here

NewcolorsI also need to get  labels on a bit of yarn I dyed last weekend. (If you look closely, you can see I was listening to Hamilton last weekend, too).  If you haven't noticed the sign up box at the top of the right hand column on this page, I'm gearing up to reopen Elliebelly in January.  More on that later, but for now, I'm working on dyeing and implementing some long planned changes on the Elliebelly Website.  I hope you'll stay in touch and look forward to Elliebelly coming back as much as I am!


Rainey DK: A New Elliebelly Yarn In Testing


It's fun to test out base yarns for dyeing.  Fun, and a little bit frustrating at times.  As a small hand dyer, I rely on an unwieldy assortment of sources for base yarns.  It's a pleasure to work with small producers and mills and there are some fabulous, slightly larger suppliers out there who work with hand dyers, as well.  For me, it's been a one by one process over many years of trying different bases out: dyeing them, knitting with them, seeing how they look after they've been washed and worn.  Different bases have their charms and their detractions, so you need some experience with them to come up with your favorites, the ones that are dye and knit-worthy.

The past year has been fun for me as I've been working with a wonderful group of knitters to experiment with the possibilities for some old favorite yarns and play with some new ones. Not every base succeeds, and among those that do, it's a very personal selection of what works for me and which yarns are best for which purposes.  Those of you who've known me for a while know that I have a near obsession with linen.  It last forever and it gets softer every time you wash it.  It's lovely.  It's been around at least since ancient  Egypt (there are tomb fragments to prove it).  And I like to knit with it, particularly when it's part of a blend that softens its feel — knitting with pure linen can be a bit like knitting with string, although I still adore it in this form.


This shawl, knit in a new base I've been working with, Rainey DK, showed up late last week.  And I'm enthralled with it. Rainey is spun from 50% Alpaca, 25% Linen and 25% Silk.  It's virtues include the softness of Silk, the strength and beauty of Linen and a fabulous halo from the Alpaca.  It has just the right halo, not a "hair everywhere" kind of thing but enough to be soft and a bit rustic without shedding.  Although I can envision shawls and shrugs for Claire Fraser in the Outlander series knit from this yarn, it makes a lovely, sophisticated shawl for today, as well. Rainey, which I'm dyeing in a fingering weight, along with this DK version, is going to be a fun addition to Elliebelly Yarns.  I can't wait to play with its potential some more, but it's clearly a winner for shawls.



The Secret Life Of Trees

I love Carol Sunday's patterns and have had The Secret Life of Trees on my list for a while.  I really wanted to knit it in Elliebelly Chemise, my silk linen blend.  Fortunately, a Ravelry friend also had this pattern in her queue, and was nice enough to knit it up for me.


It's a lovely pattern and Gail is the kind of marvelous knitter who pays lots of attention to detail, adding in a crochet edging where she carried the yarn while alternating skeins, with meticulous attention to matching gauge so that it looks like a professionally finished piece.  I'm in love, and couldn't resist these fresh out of the package photos — it looks fantastic, despite it's long road trip from Canada to Alabama.  I'm sure it will be even crisper after a gentle steaming, but I had to show it off right away.


This sweater confirms Chemise's place in my heart.  I adore linen.  I really do.  And I'm always happy to knit with a yarn spun from 100% linen.  But somehow, the addition of silk to the mix turns linen into my favorite.  It looks and feels perfect and it gets softer every time you wash it.  The sheen is amazing.  So, enough.  But I see more of this yarn in my future.


This Weekend In Knitting

Look, they made a meme just for me!


I don't really think it's accurate, at least not all the time.

This weekend, I'm definitely not crabby, because: good knitting.


Leuntje's gorgeous Winter Blumen hat, knit in Elliebelly Talia Sport, showed up in my mailbox from Holland this week.  It's a gorgeous fairisle pattern, and I love it knit up in this yarn.


This stunning beautiful aran weight cashmere from The Plucky Knitter arrived too.  I don't think it will last in stash for very long.  I'm itching to cast on with it.  The color is stunning and the yarn is the proverbial to-die-for spin.


And, I am ever so slowly, knitting ribbing on 1.5 needles and looking forward to moving on to short row shoulder shaping for Sjølingstadkofta. It's a beautiful, almost-fall weekend, and I'm going to sneak in as much knitting as possible.


Linen & Lace

One of the Ravelry knitters who is testing knitting my yarn is currently working on a lace sweater using Elliebelly Chemise, the sport weight linen and silk blend.  I used this yarn to knit my Mithril Sweater earlier this year.

image from images4-b.ravelrycache.com

But Gail is using the yarn in a very different pattern than the one I chose, defined by columns of lace, called The Secret Life of Trees.  It's exciting to see the yarn used successfully for such a different purpose.

Fragment© GGailG

This fragment gives you some idea of how the lace patterning looks.  

And here's a full sleeve.  Even unblocked, you can see the lace pattern and tell that the linen yarn is perfect here.

Laceprogress© GGailG

Gail is one of those fabulously experienced knitters who seems to be able to pull off complicated patterns with the same ease with which I would knit a garter stitch scarf.  You should take a look at her projects on Ravelry (in the link to her name).  In particular, her lace shawls are incredibly beautiful.  

I often buy yarn because it looks beautiful in the skein.  Thanks to knitters like Gail, I'm getting a much better sense of how those beautiful skeins knit up and what they most want to become.  There is definitely a lacey project in Chemise coming in my future!